The Los Angeles Lakers may have landed the second overall pick in the NBA Draft, but that alone won’t guarantee a return to prominence. They have a roster loaded with young talent and plenty of potential yet their four-year playoff drought hangs over the once-mighty franchise. If they want to rebuild quickly, president of basketball perations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka may have to find a trade for some of their assets that brings back win-now pieces.
Specifically, it appears that Julius Randle and D’Angelo Russell could be on the trading block. The Lakers are likely to land a guard like Markelle Fultz or Lonzo Ball in the NBA draft and have Larry Nance Jr. ready to absorb Randle’s minutes, so it’s no surprise that those two are seen as the most expendable. Sam Smith, writing for NBA.com, mentioned just how available both players are, specifically in a trade for Indiana Pacers star Paul George:
The Lakers also would love to dump one of those big contracts that resulted in a management change. The talk among general managers is you can pretty easily get D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle. Then simple. You give the Pacers Luol Deng to match salary with George and then throw in two former lottery picks, one from the Big 10 and the other from nearby Kentucky, and the Pacers can sell that as a rebuild.
It’s a little surprising to hear that the word on Randle and Russell is that either one could be had “pretty easily”, although Randle will be a restricted free agent next summer, so the Lakers could decide to move him rather than re-sign him to a new contract.
George himself will also be a free agent in 2018 and has long been linked to the Lakers, leading to rumors that the team will simply hold onto their assets rather than trade for him now. However, there is value in getting George to Los Angeles a year early, but it’s debatable whether the Lakers would part with both Russell and Randle, just as it’s not clear whether the Pacers would accept taking on a large, long-term deal like Deng’s.
While we don’t know if a trade will ultimately come together, this will certainly be a story to watch this summer.